AMERICAN SOLDIER SEEKING REFUGE IN CANADA SAYS
HE DESERTED HIS UNIT BECAUSE HE DIDN'T WANT "DIED DELUDED IN IRAQ" TO BE WRITTEN ON HIS TOMBSTONE -- "60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY" ON CBS
American soldiers currently living in Canada tell correspondent Scott Pelley why they made the decision to desert their units -- an offense punishable by death during wartime that has been committed by 5,500 others since the war with Iraq began. The men, who have violated military orders and oaths, tell 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY that it isn't cowardice, but rather the nature of the war in Iraq that turned them into American deserters. One soldier, 23-year-old Dan Felushko, tells Pelley, "I didn't want�'died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone." Pelley's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY on Dec. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
It was Private First Class Felushko's responsibility to go with the marines to Kuwait in January 2003. Instead, Felushko slipped out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and deployed himself to Canada. "I was a warrior�I always have been," Felushko tells Pelley. "I've always felt�that if there are people who can't defend themselves, it's my responsibility to do that." Pelley asks, "As we're sitting here, something just short of 1,100 Americans have died. What do you say to their families about the choice you made?" Felushko responds, "I honor their dead�.Maybe they think that my presence dishonors their dead, but they made a choice the same as I made a choice and my big problem is that if they made that choice for anything other than they believed in it, then that's wrong�.The government has to be held responsible for those deaths because they didn't give them an option."
Soldiers who want to be assigned to non-combat jobs do have the option of applying for conscientious objector status. Specialist Jeremy Hinzman, from Rapid City, S.D., filled out those forms, and while he waited for their decision, he worked in a kitchen in Afghanistan. The army eventually told Hinzman that he didn't qualify as a conscientious objector. "I was walking to the chow hall with my unit and we were yelling, "Train to kill, kill we will," over and over again," recalls Hinzman. "I kind of snuck a peek around me and saw all my colleagues getting red in the face and hoarse yelling, and at that point, a light went off in my head and I said, 'You know, I made the wrong career decision.'"
Despite his decision to leave the army, Hinzman says he wasn't looking for a way out of his commitment to the military. "�I was told in basic training that if I'm given an illegal or immoral order it is my duty to disobey it and I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do," says Hinzman. "�I think there are times when militaries or countries act in a collectively wrong way�Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy�but was he a threat to the U.S.?"
Hussein may have been a threat to the Iraqi people, but Hinzman maintains that was not
enough of a reason for him to risk his life fighting in Iraq. "Whether a country lives under freedom or tyranny or whatever else, that's the collective responsibility of the people of that country," says Hinzman, who later adds that his contract with the military was, "To defend the Constitution of the United States, not take part in offensive, preemptive wars�."
Josh Howard is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY and Margaret Ebrahim and Angelena Abate are the producers of this report.